6 Professional Athletes Who Use Marijuana

The pace of weed’s introduction to the mainstream is pretty quick in the USA. Marijuana, which used to be a well-known attribute of underground counterculture, now enters the lives of Americans as a legal substance for medical and recreational use. Thus, it’s not surprising that the place of weed in professional sports is continually debated, with more and more athletes confessing to using weed for muscle pain and stress relief.

Here is a list of top X professional athletes who openly admit to using marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

Is Legal Weed Allowed in Sports?

As marijuana is increasing in popularity across the USA, its place in professional sports is gradually reconsidered. The NBA and NFL have responded to this change in public opinion by loosening their policies on weed detection in players. For instance, the NFL has reduced the penalty for positive drug testing for their players, and the NBA doesn’t have any drug testing to date. So, an athlete will hardly be strictly punished for smoking the Larry Bird strain or the Ice Cream Cake weed strain to relax before a match.

However, weed is still strictly illegal in much of professional sports today. At the Olympics, athletes are banned based on positive testing, as it happened with Sha’Carri Richardson. So, it’s still too early to talk about weed’s place in sports, as too much inconsistency remains in this question.

Why Do Athletes Consume Weed?

Despite the prohibition, anecdotal evidence suggests that around 85% of NBA smoke weed. Most of them report doing this to relax before a responsible match, while others use weed to remedy their chronic pain and muscle tension.

An illustrative example of an athlete using weed for treatment is Joanna Zeiger – a professional triathlete and an Olympic champion, who endured a life-changing trauma during the 2009 Ironman World Championship in Florida. She ended up with a collarbone fraction and nerve damage in her rib cage, resulting in chronic pain and autoinflammation. Thus, Zeiger has found a remedy in marijuana use for severe pain. Zeiger is also behind the Canna Research Group, launched in 2018, conducting studies of cannabis use for pain relief.

Top 6 Weed User Athletes You Should Know


1. Michael Phelps

This owner of 28 gold medals was caught smoking a bong in 2009, after which he conducted a weed coming-out, confessing to regular pot use. The situation caused waves back in 2009, when weed was not widely legalized.

2. Conor McGregor

This world-famous boxer is the UFC star who doesn’t conceal his love for weed at all. McGregor posted images of smoking weed on his Instagram page and was noticed by journalists in Amsterdam canna-cafes. However, the athlete seems to have little trouble regarding his hobby, as UFC has pretty loose regulations about weed, testing athletes only before the competitions.

3. Al Harrington

Al retired in 2015, completing his glorious career in NBA. After that, the professional basketballer decided to shift his focus and business acumen to the cannabis-growing industry. Harrington established two cannabis enterprises – Viola Extracts and Harrington wellness. His investment in the weed business has reached $5 million by now, making Harrington one of the best-known weed advocates among athletes.

4. Cliff Robinson

Another NBA star, Cliff Robinson, has been pretty open about his habit of smoking weed. Besides, Robinson has been an active advocate of cannabis legalization in professional sports, supporting the U.S. bills and promoting his own cannabis venture, “Uncle Spliffy,” until he died in 2020.

5. Calvin Johnson

The NFL star Calvin Johnson recently admitted to smoking a joint after most games during all nine years of his professional career in the league. Johnson also reported that most of his NFL colleagues also used weed after games, which served as a healthier substitute for alcohol for relaxation. After retirement, Johnson launched his cannabis business under the brand name “Primitiv,” specializing exclusively in recreational, THC-rich cannabis products.

6. Michael Vick

Not all weed use stories are positive, as the one of Michael Vick suggests. Vick confessed to smoking weed during his career in NFL, but he reported a negative experience, noticing reduced focus and productivity at games. The athlete told reporters that weed regularly made him feel lazy and reduced his sober judgment, thus not recommending its use to professional athletes.

Weed Is Not a Counterindication for Professional Sport

Obviously, the list we’ve just considered doesn’t include only active, practicing sportspeople because weed is still strictly banned along with other drugs in most high-rank sports leagues. Some studies consider weed a performance-enhancing substance, so smoking a joint for relaxation or better sleep may cost an athlete access to competitions or a place on the team. Still, the therapeutic qualities of weed (especially CBD extracts) in muscle pain relief and stress reduction should be given more attention in professional sports. Thus, professional sport has a long path for weed to enter the legal landscape, and most of the weed advocacy comes from retired athletes.